Poet Amanda Gorman made history today by becoming the United State’s first-ever youth poet laureate at 22 years old. She gave a rousing performance of her poem ‘The Hill We Climb,’ which she wrote after the Capitol was stormed just a couple of weeks ago. Her poem is full of hope for a better country than we currently have for generations to come. If that is ever to happen, then reconciliation and acknowledgment that the United States has such a violent and ugly and not so distant past.
Not to bum anyone out, but it’s important to know history no matter how uncomfortable it is. There is no way to get close to the country Amanda dreams up in her poem if the past mistakes and atrocities are repeated. So, if your tv is still on from watching history take place, there are some great documentaries available to stream that will keep the energy of Gorman’s poem going.
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO (2017)
I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO is a feature documentary narrated by Samuel L. Jackson. James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript inspired it, Remember This House, a collection of notes and letters he wrote in the mid-1970s. Baldwin’s memoir recounts his close friends' lives and civil rights leaders Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr., and Medgar Evers. It’s an excellent documentary to watch that is not merely Baldwin’s observations of American race relations. However, it’s also a sobering reminder of how far we still need to go, even after today.
A Love Song For Latasha (2020)
Latasha Harlins was a young Black girl who was shot and killed by a convenience store owner who wrongly accused her of stealing orange juice. Her death came just three days after LA Police violently assaulted Rodney King and was a critical factor in the 1992 Los Angeles uprising. A Love Song for Latasha is a documentary short film directed by Sophia Nahli Allison. It’s the reimagined narrative of Latasha Harlins through the memories shared by her cousin Shinese Harlins and best friend, Tybie O’Bard. It’s a beautiful documentary in tribute to a young Black girl who wasn’t granted the opportunity to become all she ever dreamed she could be.
LA 92 (2017)
After watching A Love Song for Latasha, you can follow it up by watching LA 4. It is a documentary film comprised of mostly archival footage that chronicles the 1992 Los Angeles riots. It includes film and video of the 1965 Watts Riots, the 1973 election of Tom Bradley, the 1978 promotion of Daryl Gates, the murder of Latasha Harlins, the Rodney King beating, and the subsequent riots and violence that erupted after the acquittal of the officers involved in King's beating.
4 Little Girls (1997)
The documentary 4 Little Girls is about the September 15, 1963 murder of four Black girls, Addie May Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Cynthia Wesley, and Carole Rosamond Robertson. They were killed in a blast from bombs by the Ku Klux Klan at the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bombing is known as a critical and pivotal moment in the Civil Rights Movement. 1963 wasn’t too long ago, and homegrown terrorist attacks on worship places for Black and nonwhite people.
The Rape of Recy Taylor ( 2017)
Before Rosa Parks was known for her role in the 1955 bus boycott, she played an intimate role in Recy Taylor’s story. Taylor was a 24-year-old young Black mother and sharecropper who was gang-raped by six white boys in 1944. The NAACP sent their chief rape investigator Rosa Parks to speak with Recy Tayor after she spoke up and identified her assaulters. The documentary looks at the legacy of physical abuse of Black women, how Black women speak up despite how great the danger, and how their efforts in taking back their bodies led to the Montgomery Bus Boycotts and movements that soon followed.
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